ALAMEDA, Calif., July 21, 2021 — Natel Energy, a supplier of sustainable hydropower solutions, today announced a $20M funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and supported by Chevron Technology Ventures. The company will use the funding to build momentum in the deployment of its flagship product, the Restoration Hydro Turbine (RHT), which enables cost-effective production of distributed reliable renewable energy, while supporting the health and climate resilience of watershed ecosystems.
“As more solar and wind power solutions are deployed, the role of hydropower will become increasingly important due to its inherent reliability, flexibility, and ability to integrate other renewables onto the grid,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “Natel’s Restoration Hydro Turbine is the most cost-effective and environmentally safe solution for fully unlocking the power of additional sustainable hydropower generation. Additionally, the company’s digital solutions help the existing hydro fleet optimize production, creating a powerful combination of technology to enable a truly 100% renewable grid.”
The investment follows two successful project deployments that have accumulated two years of commercial operation. The Monroe Hydro Project in Madras, Oregon is a first-of-its-kind design making use of an existing irrigation canal and Natel’s new, fish safe turbine technology to generate reliable, renewable energy. With the installation of the commercially released 1 MW class D190 RHT, the site now contributes 100% renewable energy to the local grid. The successful completion of the Monroe Hydro Project and the industry-leading fish passage testing that was conducted by Pacific Northwest National Lab extend Natel Energy’s work to make sustainable hydropower a large scale source of distributed, reliable, renewable energy.
“Natel Energy is on pace to grow the footprint of modern, distributed, fish safe hydropower as a climate-resilient solution supporting the transition to a reliable, zero carbon grid, ” said Gia Schneider, CEO and co-founder of Natel. “The future of renewable energy, and specifically hydropower, hinges on the ability to consider environmental impacts of deployment alongside the urgent need to shift our grid for a more sustainable future, and Natel’s solutions do just that.”
Natel’s Restoration Hydro Turbine is a compact propeller-style turbine with specially designed blades that allow fish to pass safely. The RHT has a compact footprint that reduces total installed cost and enables plant designs that maintain or improve river connectivity. The RHT is suitable for upgrading or repowering existing small hydro plants with modern, high-performance fish safe turbines; for adding a new generation to existing non-power dams; and for new hydro development through Natel’s Restoration Hydro design approach. Natel’s Upstream Tech HydroForecast solution enables more accurate forecasts of water flow, helping optimize power production from both RHT and conventional hydro projects; while the Lens solution delivers cost-effective, easily scalable monitoring of landscape change across large project areas to deliver effective natural resource management.
“We are excited about Natel’s potential to unlock distributed hydro resources, further advancing the integration of lower-carbon power into the grid,” said Barbara Burger, Vice President, Innovation and President of Technology Ventures at Chevron. “This is the latest investment from our recently launched $300 million Future Energy Fund II, which invests in lower carbon technologies with the potential to enable more affordable, reliable, and ever-cleaner energy.”
Natel’s holistic approach combines its innovative hardware and software solutions into a design philosophy called Restoration Hydro to build cost-effective hydropower projects that help to restore watersheds, providing multiple environmental co-benefits while supplying reliable renewable energy. Restoration Hydro incorporates best practices from stream restoration, whitewater recreation, and even dam removal, with Natel’s solutions to create a blueprint for a new generation of water + power + restoration projects. In addition to producing reliable, renewable energy, Restoration Hydro projects have the potential to generate multiple environmental co-benefits that may include habitat creation, improved water quality, and sustained increases in groundwater and aquifer recharge rates.
With the additional support from this funding round, Natel Energy plans to scale deployments of the RHT, HydroForecast and Lens through direct sales as well as through developing a targeted portfolio of Restoration Hydro projects to accelerate the supply of sustainable distributed hydropower projects in the U.S. and Europe.
About Natel Energy
Natel Energy is a California-based company with a mission to mitigate climate change and build climate resilience by providing hardware and software solutions that enable a 100% renewable grid via a hydropower backbone. Climate change is water change, and hydropower is situated at the confluence of climate mitigation and adaptation. Hydropower is a crucial component of a low-carbon, renewable grid because of its reliability, flexibility and complementary generation characteristics to wind and solar. Hydropower projects are also integrally dependent upon and have substantial impact on watershed function. Natel’s solutions address cost, operations and environmental performance challenges at the heart of unlocking additional sustainable, reliable hydropower generation – both from the existing fleet and from new project development.
About Breakthrough Energy Ventures
Backed by many of the world’s top business leaders, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) invests in cutting-edge companies that will lead the world to net-zero emissions. BEV has more than $2 billion in committed capital to support bold entrepreneurs building companies that can significantly reduce emissions from agriculture, buildings, electricity, manufacturing, and transportation. BEV’s strategy links government-funded research and patient, risk-tolerant capital to bring transformative clean energy innovations to market as quickly as possible.
The first fund was created in 2016 as part of the Breakthrough Energy network of initiatives and entities, which include investment funds, non-profit and philanthropic programs, and policy efforts linked by a shared commitment to scale the technologies needed to address climate change and achieve a path to net zero emissions by 2050. Visit www.breakthroughenergy.org to learn more.
SOURCE Natel Energy
The World Wildlife Fund, the International Federation of Consulting Engineers and AECOM featured Natel in a playbook for engineers to learn about sustainable infrastructure development.
Gia talks with Catherine McLean from Dylan Green about what it's like to lead Natel and how her upbringing influenced her commitment to tackling climate change.